The Bureau is a project that 2K Marin has been working on for seven years now – yes that is correct; the development started way back in 2006 although the game was first unveiled in 2010. Since then it has seen quite game-changing alterations, which go to the extent that the version being presented now is quite far from where it all actually started.
However, some of the things are still the same. The game sets foot in the classical 1950’s where ruggedness and hard nosed characters empowered the scenery. With waistcoats, collared dress shirts and a tough look, the characters in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified ensue a similar feeling to that of a vintage movie.
Yet it is an extra-terrestrial attack based tactical RPG. Even with all those settings that present rustic views, and the typical style this era held; 2K Marin have managed to intermingle it with today’s rampantly popular theme for shooter games we commonly refer to sci-fi.
Talking of the storyline, it does look like the otherwise unexplainable time taken in development was brought to good use. The Bureau, though still an alien invasion based sci-fi, carries an edge over the rest insofar as the setting is concerned. The game introduces the actual Bureau to players which has been revamped to counter the alien attack –being initially made to counter a Soviet attack on the US.
Aliens attack specific locations looking for specific targets –apparently their objectives are not global destruction just as yet. The Bureau is tasked of fending off the aliens with William Carter the protagonist leading their way into the clashes.
William Carter is a tough bodied ex-FBI agent who has been recruited to lead the team against aliens by the Bureau Chief Faulke. Though fond of alcohol and indifference at times he still is a tough nut who has it in him to take charge of the undercover missions despite his remorse regarding his family bring killed recently.
Carter doesn’t just run the show in a figurative way, 2K Marin has introduced a function using which you can directly command the two AI assists you are tagged with. This is an intricate feature for you can order them to cover for you, change positions, flip sides, stand ground and go forward and so on.
The intricacy is; all this happens while you are playing, though it slows down the overall game speed. When you try commanding the AII squad mates the game color-divides your friends and foes and then slows down the action to one tenth its speed while you figure out orders.
Talking of squad mates, keep in mind that Carter speaks highly on them, in the initial hours of the game he keeps brooding over the ones that die out of his attachment with them.
This opens the gates to yet another interesting element; all the AI support characters (Engineer, Commando, Support and Recon) are made in the Bureau from experience and once one of them gets killed it can be replaced by an ill equipped and less-skilled unit, leaving you weak in the middle of the action. Point to note: hand on to that AI.
The game is a slow progressing one and with that come slight sacrifices you might have to bear in the initial gameplay. For instance, you build up on your skills and features as you go while your enemies are fully informed say about your location, buffs and abilities from the first minute.
Just so you have an idea; the team mates start with flanking and simple firearms at level one, and by the time they reach level five they can do things like laying turrets, throwing shields based on the class they belong to. So you might want to hang onto item and the game for the time when you have progressed enough to get even on technology with your enemies.
When the initial levels of actions are played with and targets are achieved you grow into unlocking new ones, for instance, lifting enemies or turrets above cover and/or critically damaging abilities. Look out for backpacks and other outerwear that will allow you to take hold of such abilities. William Carter gets upgraded simply by playing the game.
When you are in the open, it the enemy will come at you. They are reactive and their AI is impressively smart so you better not give them an undue chance to crush you or your team –especially not when they have a shield generating orb at work.
The classic presentation of the 50’s and the 60’s matches the Golden Age as depicted by historians, though there are darker issues. With racism and gender discrimination running rampant evidently the developers couldn’t stick to the whole truth. So a female agent is introduced and revered for her abilities and other aspects that could have raised questions are usually kept silent.
To keep it realistic, 2K Marin ensures that everything is era specific; from the music to the cars to the posters to… here it comes; weapons. Though you can use the high-tech weaponry of aliens if you get hold of it, the arsenal that team Carter wields goes at max to an M14.
Overall, this will present a tough time to you. You will be rewarded for tactical and creative thinking; blind crossfire sequences will get you killed.
Manage the AI squad mates well, and they would be a great support, fail at it and you will be left with novices when you face the big bad aliens. Having countless games being made in the modernized world, The Bureau gives a fresh taste –that too in very well made way, the era is depicted perfectly.
It nails the third-person shooter element with solid/reachable controls but let’s hope the slight lack of approachableness doesn’t overshadow its strong points.